SHAKESPEARE’S SONNET 55 IN A BELOW-GROUND APARTMENT:
By: Kaitlin Kerr
Ink on fingertips dissolving. I
find a teabag, three hours later, cold
and brittle. I’m regretting with a sigh
that’s mildly bitter ...We met at our old
coffeeshop but couldn’t stay (I couldn’t).
You, reading to me in soft whispers—
Was that days ago...or mere minutes when
amidst the noise, it was just tea and chess…
and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55? You read
the melody above-ground...and I
now that my mind lives underground I ask
(because I ache from being too tired of Time),
a thousand questions: How long do we have?
How long before my body finally breaks
and we evaporate?
I fondle the dry, crinkled bag. And I
feel you still, smiling with your whole face
kissing my fingers -- drinking champagne by
the bottle. Offer me a sip, a taste…
Words, you reassure me, have more stamina
than time. Remind me. With every breath
you take, remind me –
We, you say, will remain...after Time…
So now, the scent of you fades from your books,
the touch of your blue eyes evaporates
(You spoke my language in swift furtive looks….)
Both kings in check— stale words reverberate:
And all our words and loves will ever be,
Even in the eyes of all posterity.
Kaitlin Kerr is a nurse, actress, and writer. She holds degrees in both English Literature and Nursing. She serves on the board of directors of the Shakespearean theatre company Food for Groundlings, and most of her acting focuses on Shakespeare’s works. Kaitlin also volunteers with a PAAR's crisis helpline, and is a co-facilitator for the local Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Connective Tissue Disorders support group. Much of her work grows out of the reality of living with a rare chronic pain disorder and finding true meaning in art, beauty, and connection with others. Some of her recent work can be found in Pif magazine, Wingless Dreamer, and Goat Farm Poetry Society’s zine anthology.
"This poem has gone through quite a few revisions, and if I remember correctly, did not even begin as a sonnet. It began as a series of images, hastily written down from a very tumultuous time in my life…with some fiction peppered in, so I can honestly give an “all-persons disclaimer” that “The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this poem are fictitious. Any identification with actual persons living or deceased, is purely coincidental.” Although that is never completely true, either, is it?
As a Shakespean actor and student of all things Shakespeare, I am quite familiar with the sonnet form, and when it became clear to me that the themes of this poem (impermanence, time, possibly “unrequit-able” love) were quite aligned with those of Shakespeare’s sonnets, particularly those that deal time capital-T Time, I knew I had to make this poem a sonnet…and change the title. However, I absolutely did not want to force a poem into a form. I’m a strong believer that the form should serve the content, not the other way around. So I made sure when my stresses were not iambic, or when I exceeded or fell short of ten-syllables per line, that this was intentional and served to highlight something important in tone or idea about that particular line. I hope I have at least partially accomplished this.
My poetry, like that of my hero, Edna St. Vincent Millay (not that I will ever claim to be of the same caliber) deals “primarily with emotion; with the sense of tears and of laughter, in mortal things; with beauty and passion; with having and losing.” My prevailing themes, like hers, are "as ancient as the Greeks: the permanence of poetry and impermanence of love, subject to change, to loss, or ending.” I think we all are really writing about emotions, about experiences common to everybody. If I can write a poem that makes someone feel like they could have written it themselves in any way, I have succeeded."